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Occupy activists found guilty but the conflict remains unsettled

On April 24, a judge at the West Kowloon Court passed sentence on four of the nine leaders of the Umbrella Movement, including the Occupy Central trio of Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, for their role in the 79 civil disobedience protest more than four years ago. Tai and Chan were both jailed for 16 months, Shiu, who is an incumbent Legco member, and Raphael Wong Ho-ming received eight-month sentences while Reverend Chu’s 16-month sentence was suspended for two years because of his poor health and service to society.
 
When Tai, Chan and Reverend Chu founded Occupy Central with Love and Peace in 2013 to fight for democracy, they clearly stated that civil disobedience did not amount to contempt of the law and that those involved respect the law and were willing to shoulder the relevant legal consequences.
 
On the 31 August 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress made its ruling on the universal suffrage of Hong Kong (the 831 Decision) stipulating that the membership of the nominating committee, which would name two to three candidates for the chief executive position, must be similar to the present Election Committee system composed of 1,200 members from four sectors. Each candidate must receive the support of “over half” of the nominating committee. Local democrats and many citizens were disappointed and considered this “a complete closure” of the universal suffrage framework.
 
Student organisations launched class boycotts. Later, some people stormed the government headquarters at Admiralty. Advocates, including Scholarism leader, Joshua Wong Chi-fung, were arrested, triggering a great number of citizens to come forward to in support. In the early hours September 28, Tai announced the official start of the Umbrella Movement as the path of dialogue had come to an end. That night, police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at student protesters. That December, the Occupy Central trio handed themselves in to the police although no prosecutorial action was taken until last year. 
 
According to public opinion, the nine activists have now “settled accounts” for civil disobedience.
 
The court has dealt with the legal side, but the government has not addressed the political issues at the root of the matter including the underlying conflicts and imbalances in the system and the major cause leading to the Umbrella Movement—lack of genuine universal suffrage.
 
Universal suffrage is a right enshrined in the Basic Law and is the aspiration of Hong Kong society. However, rational discussion and dialogue has been distorted and people are only concerned with their own standpoints.
 
Christians, must bear witness for justice in the light of faith. As Reverend Chu said in his statement from the defendant’s dock: “In the Umbrella Movement, I am just a bell ringer hoping to send out a warning sound to let people know that something bad and disastrous is happening. In so doing, I hope that consciences may wake up and we work together to turn the tide.”
 
One Country, Two Systems has been weakened by various social incidents and people in power in recent years. If we want to reverse the trend, we need to repair the divisions, promote dialogue, and endeavour to cultivate and nurture people’s sense of democracy in all aspects of life.
 
The Umbrella Movement seemed to have “failed” and the Movement itself has been found guilty. The promotion of democracy is a long way off.
 
Christianity has considerable value in building a civil society and promoting democratic progress. As Christians, we should view history with hope and believe that the sacrifice made by people with goodwill, will eventually build the common good in society. SE